The testing has ended and Rizla Suzuki MotoGP is in Qatar for the first round of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship, to be staged at the Losail International Circuit on Saturday 10th March.
John Hopkins is fighting to be back at full fitness to take his place on the grid with team-mate Chris Vermeulen, as both riders will be going all out to make a solid start to the 2007 Championship campaign. Hopkins is recovering from his high-speed crash last month - also at Losail - and is eager to get back on the bike whilst Vermeulen is keen to capitalise on his rookie season in MotoGP last year and develop into a force to reckoned with.
This is the first time that Qatar has held the inaugural GP of the season and it will give riders and machines alike a real tough start to this season's 18-race series - the Losail circuit can become very dusty and slippery due to its location in the Qatari desert. The hot and abrasive nature of the track's surface will make tyre choice all important and the high air temperatures will test the riders' stamina to the limits. This race will also mark the first ever Grand Prix for the 800cc bikes and see the instigation of the new tyre rule - which only allows each rider using Bridgestone or Michelin tyres a limit of no more than 31 slick tyres per rider, 14 front and 17 rear, for the duration of the race weekend. There will be no limit on the number of wet tyres.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP tested at the 5.380km circuit only last month and gathered important data about the performance of the new Suzuki GSV-R and the latest generation of Bridgestone tyres, which all parties hope will stand them in good stead come race-day.
Practice will begin on Thursday as Hopkins and Vermeulen take to the track for an hour-long session in the morning and afternoon. Friday will see another hour of practice followed by the all-exciting afternoon qualifying session to decide grid positions for Saturday's 22-lap race that gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
"I am slowly getting back to fitness and I'm ready to get to work in Qatar. I was gutted to miss the final test as we still had a bit of work to do and I really wanted to go for the car, but it was the best thing to do as I need to be ready for this weekend. Chris worked hard in Jerez and we learnt some stuff about tyres so we have an idea of what to use here in Qatar. I am more excited for this first race than I have ever been in my career and I need to get out there and start showing what the Suzuki and I can do!"
"Qatar is an unusual circuit and one that we have struggled at a bit before, but I am sure with the new bike and the latest tyres we will make some sort of impact this year. I have raced here in MotoGP and Superbikes so it is a track that I know quite well. It is going to be tough out there because of the heat, wind and dust but it's also a track that gives good, fast racing and I hope that we can push the Suzukis right up there to the front."